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Meet Trailblazer Mariah Romero

Today we’d like to introduce you to Mariah Romero.

Mariah, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
For my story, we have to start at my roots and that begins with my parents. Their own personal journeys in life greatly impacted mine and has, without a doubt, gotten me to where I am today. I owe everything to both my mom and dad, especially my mom.

My dad says I come from the best of both worlds, the street and the books. My dad the streets and my mom the books, but yet both fighters, hustlers, and humble human beings. You see, we didn’t experience the easiest life as a family. We struggled, but despite the struggle, I always saw my parents persevere, specially my mom. She is the main reason why I feel I have accomplished so many of my goals and why I took the road towards entrepreneurship after I graduated from grad school. Despite any challenges, my mom encountered, she never gave up. Which is something I constantly remind myself anytime I encounter obstacles on my journey.

Then there is my dad, the biggest hustler you will ever meet. My dad would say that he could sell the shoes on your feet right back to you. My mom says I get my hustler mentality from him, which is where Marstore began. The Original Marstore is an ode to my parent’s first side hustle store they opened on eBay, Marstore805. They would make and sell LAFD decals stickers and t-shirts for side cash. Their office was our computer desk and garage, where my dad silkscreened the shirts. I remember as a kid wanted to own a store of my own, and I guess that is where the seed was planted, it didn’t sprout until the middle of 2019.

I always felt that my role and purpose in this world was to bring healing, comfort, compassion and a voice for the hurting, especially the underdogs and those disregarded by society, mainly because of my dad. My dad struggled with drug addiction for mostly all his life. I remember at a youth age developing a heart for the addict, So while attending East Los Angeles College, I decided that I wanted to go into the field of social work. I ended up receiving my BSW from Cal State LA, then going straight into my master’s program at USC for my MSW. During my schooling, I began to learn the importance of therapy, self-care, mental health, and overall well being. As students, our professors would constantly stress the importance of self-care. I remember some saying how they would partake in facials, massages, full mani-pedis, and I would be in class thinking wow! That must be nice!! Because I can’t afford all that… then in an instant, I had a humbling moment where I checked my own privilege.

For years I would get my nails done every week, buy multiple face masks from Ulta, and buy all the makeup from MAC as forms of self-care, and I didn’t realize the privilege that I held behind that. I have access to all these forms of self-care, where others may not. My entire goal in life is to promote positive well-being, mental health and stress the importance of self-care, but most of the time, that costs money. Especially now in the world we live in today, where everything from food to clothes is going natural, organic and vegan. However, low-income communities are not fully included or represented in this movement. Healthy living and options should be provided for everyone, especially when it comes to forms of self-care.

So after graduating from my master’s program, I decided to take a break and focus on my own self-care. One thing that I know a lot of post-grad students can relate to is that broke life! I had to stop working while in grad school, so my bank account was very low and I couldn’t afford many things I use to buy. I remember being on Instagram and seeing all these young Latina business owners selling homemade soaps and lotions and thinking, hey, I bet I can do that! So… I did… I started off making lip balms and soaps. And that is where my store began. Before I opened my store on Instagram, I reflected back on the moment I had in class. That all forms of self-care should be available to everyone, so I made sure that not only where all my products made with natural ingredients but that they were affordable for everyone.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
Definitely not, but it has been a great learning experience. When learning anything, encountering challenges and obstacles are inevitable, but that is normal and okay, and you have to remind yourself that it is okay! I think specifically for me, my struggles are more on a personal level. I struggle at times with self-doubt, insecurity when it comes to confidence in what I am doing and negative self-talk. It a trip because having a strong background in social work and mental health, I am very aware of the patterns when it comes to umbrella of negative self-talk, so I have to constantly remind myself that these are false thoughts. I feel like when your first starting and when you have so many years into what you are doing, those thoughts will come here and there, but you have to remember that just because others may make similar products that you, that doesn’t take away the importance and value behind yours. It is kinda like when you make a sandwich and your mom makes one, you both have the exact same ingredients but one always comes out slightly different.

There are three things that I would want young women to know who are starting their journey. The first is just be your unique self. We all may have similar backgrounds and stories but you only have yours and share that in whatever it is your doing. Don’t change yourself or your brand to fit in with mainstream society because I guaranty you will resonate with so many people who understand your hustle. With individuals who are looking from that space, brand, store, blogg etc. that represents them, where they see themselves in you. Which is number two, don’t forget where you come from. If you become the next Selena, always remember your humble beginnings, the late nights you were up trying to perfect your about me page, or hand-making your own labels.

I emphasize we all start from the bottom, especially being women of color, unfortunately, we do not have as much access to resources and thriving opportunities as others do. I have learned that many of my amazing opportunities have come from the help of other women of color. These women remember their struggle and use their platforms to give back and uplift other women-owned businesses, like Carmen Baltazar, The East LA Girl and Vanessa Arias The Bizness Coach. When you stay to true to yourself and your people, people will see how you are as a person. Which leads me to my last piece of advice, do everything you do with a whole heart. Having a hustle is easy, but putting your whole heart into it makes it successful. People will easily see this, and that is what draws people to you. They will feel it when they are trying on the shirt they bought or the shampoo you made. The energy you put into anything will resonate.

We’d love to hear more about The Original Marstore.
I, Mariah Romero, am the founder, CEO, creator and product maker of The Original Marstore, which is a Latina owned business based in East Los Angeles. We provide natural handcrafted skincare and self-care essential products that I make right in my mom’s kitchen. I make sure that all our ingredients are naturally and ethically sourced while also being bought from local small stores around Los Angeles. For example, our oils, waxes, butters, and herbs are bought from a Wild Terra a small business in Highland Park and from Herbs of Mexico in Boyle Heights. Our stickers are made from StickerSal, another small Latino business owner. We also offer Vegan options like our vegna lip balm and deodorant. My goal is to support my city through a holistic approach, what better way than building your products for your community by your community. Marstore mission and soul purpose is to promote positive mental health, self-care and wellness to the community at an affordable price. I believe that everyone should have access to natural and great quality skincare products, especially those from my community.

I believe The Original Marstore is known for its unique ode to the Old East LA culture, the Chevy lowrider bombs, oldies, and the 80’s party scene, my family background. If you look at our aesthetic, you, without a doubt, see East LA but you also see my roots, which also sets us apart from others. Many of my products are named after songs that my parents would listen too, from Oldies to 80’s freestyle, house, and disco. When you go on our website and if you look closely, our background is pictures of my family from many generations. I did this because they shaped who I am, either directly or indirectly.

Which women have inspired you in your life?
Hands down, my momma. She is the strongest woman I have and will ever know. I seen her sacrifice so much of her life in order for me to succeed in mine. She is, without a doubt, a very hard working woman, which is where I feel I get my dedication to work and perseverance. She never once and still does not give up no matter how hard life has got, which defiantly keeps going.

She also inspires and critiques many of the items. I remember when she gave me feedback on our Orange Turmeric Makeup Remover soap, I was so nervous because I value her feedback, when she said it was the best soap she has ever used, that meant the world to me. And what do you know, our turmeric soap is one of a top-selling soaps! I get some much positive feedback from it from so many ladies!

Finally both my Grandma Maria and my Grandma June. These two strong hard working women helped raise me and provided me with so much love and care. I can definitely say their own hustle and creativity runs in my blood because of them. I am blessed to have just strong women in my life.

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Image Credit:
Marlyn Palao

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